One of the four surviving endangered northern white rhinos has died at a San Diego zoo in the United States.
The rhino named Nola, was put down at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park after suffering from a bacterial infection and age-related health issues. Nola had been living in the zoo since 1989.
Efforts to conserve the near-extinct species now remain uncertain as only three are now left on earth.
The three, all elderly, are kept under close guard at the Ol Pajeta Conservancy in Kenya.
However, the three rhinos at the conservancy are considered by scientists to be too old or ill to reproduce.
The future of the subspecies now lies in the development of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) techniques and stem cell technology which are costly and complicated procedures that have never before been attempted before in rhinos.
The animals were moved to Kenya from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009, along with one other male northern white rhino which unfortunately died at Ol Pejeta.
“It was hoped that the natural conditions at the conservancy would encourage mating, but this has not been the case over the years. We have now been forced to seek other alternatives,” a statement by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy read.
Unless a technique for rhino IVF or stem cell technology can be developed, funded, tested and implemented, the northern white rhino will become extinct.
A team of experts led by IZW Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) Berlin has been working with Dvůr Králové and Ol Pejeta on this already.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy together with Dvůr Králové Zoo is now trying to raise USD1 million to assist in the research aimed at conserving the northern white rhino through a campaign dubbed ‘Make a Rhino’.
“We would not be asking people to donate towards this campaign if we did not truly believe that there was one last ray of hope for saving this endangered species,” Ol Pejeta CEO, Richard Vigne said.
“It is by no means straightforward, but saving a subspecies from extinction in an age where science is capable of so many extraordinary things can be done. All we need is for citizens around the world to unite and save the northern white rhino for future generations,” he added.